hipmunk.com

CH Albach



Hipmunk.com is a new air travel site; the company was founded in 2010. The goal of Hipmunk is to make it easy to search and compare different flights across different times and airlines. The main advantages to using Hipmunk are the clean, simple, interface and the intelligent visualization and sorting of the search results. Hipmunk only has two 'pages' to the site: the search page in which you enter your search parameters (also the home page), and the search results page.

hipmunk-main.png


hipmunk-results.png


The layout and style of Hipmunk.com is clean and consistent throughout. The site has a very modern 'web app' look.

One thing to notice is that this site is heavily dependent on Javascript and modern web technologies. As a result, I hoped that Hipmunk.com would have some degree of fault tolerance for different browser configurations (e.g. NoScript addon in FireFox). While Hipmunk does handle older browsers, it is rather intolerant of users with Javascript disabled. No warning is given to the user, and functionality is obliterated; hitting 'search' with Javascript disabled led me to a page containing only the following text:

"{"jquery": "var _0=jQuery.call(jQuery,\"form\");\nvar _1=_0.find;\nvar _2=_1.call(_0,\".status\");\nvar _3=_2.hide;\nvar _4=_3.call(_2);\nvar _5=_0.find;\nvar _6=_5.call(_0,\"div.error.field-return\");\nvar _7=_6.append;\nvar _8=_7.call(_6,\"<p>we couldn't figure out that date.<\\/p>\");\nvar _9=_8.show;\nvar _10=_9.call(_8);\nvar _11=_0.find;\nvar _12=_11.call(_0,\"#error-wrapper-return\");\nvar _13=_12.addClass;\nvar _14=_13.call(_12,\"haserror\");\nvar _15=eval(\"try { on_error_return(\\\"we couldn't figure out that date.\\\") } catch (err){};\");\nvar _16=_0.find;\nvar _17=_16.call(_0,\"#return\");\nvar _18=_17.focus;\nvar _19=_18.call(_17);\nvar _20=_0.find;\nvar _21=_20.call(_0,\"div.error.field-date0\");\nvar _22=_21.append;\nvar _23=_22.call(_21,\"<p>we couldn't figure out that date.<\\/p>\");\nvar _24=_23.show;\nvar _25=_24.call(_23);\nvar _26=_0.find;\nvar _27=_26.call(_0,\"#error-wrapper-date0\");\nvar _28=_27.addClass;\nvar _29=_28.call(_27,\"haserror\");\nvar _30=eval(\"try { on_error_date0(\\\"we couldn't figure out that date.\\\") } catch (err){};\");\nvar _31=_0.find;\nvar _32=_31.call(_0,\"#date0\");\nvar _33=_32.focus;\nvar _34=_33.call(_32)"}"

As this is a rather common accessibility problem, this does not bode well for other, less common issues.

In contrast to this misstep, the actual web app is very easy to use and is highly fault tolerant. On the search page, airports and times may be entered in multiple, mixed formats. Auto-completion is provided for airports and an intuitive system of two calendars is provided for marking the departure and arrival dates. Clicking search directs you to a loading screen, which gives guaranteed feedback to the user (the search takes a while). Almost every button or icon on Hipmunk.com offers a popup which gives an explanation of its function. A personal 'tab' system is offered at the top, giving a visible pathway to reversing what you have done. Lastly, there is a 'Live Help' chat window at the bottom right corner of the site, throughout the process.

The search results table is well designed. Sorting options are given in order of practicality, including the default sort type: 'Agony' (Hipmunk's custom weighting of price, duration and layovers). Hipmunk also collapses all dominated (strictly worse than others) flights. The flow for buying a ticket is convoluted. By either clicking "From $#" button or clicking the flight and hitting the enigmatic 'select this leg' button, a new, smaller table of flights is opened. It is not clear why these are presented, but they appear to be permutations of small variations on the originally listed flight. At this point, you can click the Buy button which then redirects you to Orbitz.com (Himpunk does not actually sell tickets).

Lastly, I question the choice of the name Hipmunk. As far as I can tell, this holds no relevance to air travel which would likely make it more difficult to recall.

Overall, Hipmunk is a powerful tool for flight comparison with some small usability issues.